Michael Jackson’s face in tree

Maybe not as edible as Jesus toast – but just as miraculous, hallelujah – the face of Michael Jackson appeared in somebody’s tree. There’s a photo on CNN. 🙂

Calling on the power of the Almighty Rorschach – may His name be praised – I can reveal that it’s REALLY a miraculous image of a cat/owl hybrid in the final stages of swallowing a skinny lizard.

CBS has a gallery of images of the saintly sightings discovered in fast food and household items. Each one is almost more convincing evidence of an all-powerful deity than the next – if that were possible.

Luckily, despite having been specifically singled out by their omnipotent god to receive these magical images, the people who get them often refuse to be selfish.

They choose to share them with the world. On E-bay.

Added bit.

I just spotted a link to this great magical-item-generator on bengoldacre’s bookmarks

Christian variant of classic scam?

Some “get rich quick” internet scams have the decency to target people who are gullible and greedy, as well as having more money than brain cells. (Oh, maybe I’m thinking of hedge funds, rather than email cons, here.)

Apathy Sketchpad has a few posts showing how to deal with some classic Nigerian scams.

There’s a more distasteful type of con that preys upon the mark’s charitable impulses and/or their religious beliefs, rather than their greed.

I found Sam Gipp’s “A Friend to Churches Ministries” site by following a link from fstdt. I was sniggering at posts like this, while thinking how glad I am there’s a whole ocean between me and the ground such people walk on:

Welcome to the U.S.S.A.
Since the “November Revolution” when the Communist Party took over our government and began its conversion to “GODvernment” the old United States of America is gone, replaced by a new entity: the United Socialist States of America. Here are some of the differences between these two countries.

Then I spotted this tale on the about page:

You all know that, in all the years I’ve written these letters I have never asked anyone to send us money…Don’t worry!…I’m not going to start now. But there is an Urgent Need that I am going to tell you about & ask you to help.

Well, I know you aren’t going to do anything so vulgar as to ask for money, Sam. It’s not as if I don’t trust you implicitly.

Carl & Leta Miller have been missionaries to Scotland for 23 years. They have been faithful through extremely difficult times. Their daughter, Libby, has had severe health problems. Carl has had surgery on the retinas in both eyes, needs to have his knees replaced, also his hips and has fought off cancer in his bladder. He cannot walk without leaning on his wife, Leta. Unfortunately, Leta is not much better. She has a severe back problem and uses two canes to walk. The great, government health care program won’t even look at her for surgery until they deem it, “Life threatening.” It takes 18 months just to get a pain shot. (Just wait until we have that here!)

Missionaries to Scotland? Hmm. It’s not as if Scotland isn’t already bursting with various Christian sects. This already stretches credulity.

But the next bit blows any residual credulity right out of the water.

It takes 18 months to get a pain shot.” Eighteen months! Are you insane? Well, OK, the Scots are stereotypically seen as tough, after all. Who knows what is normal in those strange Northern regions?… (Just, never try to take their Freedom.)

Based on an ultra-conservative perspective, he is insulting what he sarcastically calls our “great, government health care program” as if it provides a service that would compare unfavourably with what you’d expect to find in a Somalian war zone.

But, in fact, judging by the long list of health problems suffered by his doughty missionaries, they’ve already benefited from plenty of nationalised health care, including a series of surgeries that would have bankrupted the average American family. What are these people? Health tourists?

We talked to my doctor. He said he would look at her. Get this! The Millers have put every penny into their mission work and couldn’t even afford the plane ticket for Leta to come here for tests. Kathy & I bought her the ticket and paid for the tests. My doctor says he can help here. He said without the surgery she is headed for a wheelchair. Leta is now back in Scotland. The Millers are coming to Louisville in January. A brother has provided airline tickets, a lady at Shawnee Baptist Church is giving them a place to stay and another church is renting them a car. Here’s their problem; they have no health insurance at all. The hospital costs are going to be around $200,000-$250,000.

But, wait. Hooray! He can get these costs discounted! As long as they get the money REALLY REALLY fast.

But! My wonderful wife has talked to the folks at the hospital. They said they will reduce the cost by 60%! They also said, if the bill is paid within 30 days after surgery they will drop it another 20%.

Don’t you just love the idea that a hospital could so drastically reduce a bill of a quarter of a million dollars for a quick sale?

Word For The World Baptist Missions has started a “Leta Miller Medical Fund.” We have given and several churches have also helped. They need around $50,000. Around $15,000 has already come in. Will you help? If they can raise the $50,000 by surgery time, January 26, 2009, they can pay the surgery off and save thousands of dollars.

Wow, how economical is that. Praise the Lord!

But, stop right there, Sam Gyp Gipp. Let me save your donors a few more Yankee dollars. Guess what? We also have private medical care in the UK. Your $15k could buy the unlucky Leta as much UK health care as she can handle. Yes, even in heathen Scotland.

Do anything when in crisis

In my previous post, I pretty much said everything I could ever say regarding my limited understanding of the financial crisis, so this has a slightly different spin.

The BBC today have carried an interesting quote from the illustrious George Bush:

Mr Bush said at the White House: “We are in an urgent situation and the consequences will grow worse each day if we do not act.”

Taken at face value it is quite frightening. But here in our comfortable Ivory-WhyDontYou Tower we have heard this before. Lots of times. On both sides of the Atlantic. About lots of different situations.

For those of you have been bored enough to read high pressure marketing crap, you will recognise some of this. A staple of a scam is the call to urgent action. The sales idea is that by telling you to “Buy now while stocks last” is a great way of over-riding your decision making process. I am sure most people can remember when, idly surfing, you would be confronted with a pop up window saying you were a winner and you only had 10 seconds to click before you lost you wonderful prize.

Now, unusually for Bush, this is slightly more sophisticated. It is very true that we are in an crisis situation. It may even be urgent. However, none of this supports the second half of the statement. Even more crucially, not one part of the statement supports the proposed bill.

If you accept that the situation is urgent and delay will make it worse, you are still left with having to find out what the solution is. Simply doing anything is not the answer. Oddly, this is what the English speaking politicians seem to be crying for. The idea appears to be that doing anything is better than nothing.

What madness.

Doing something useful is better than nothing. Simply acting is not. In fact, doing the wrong thing can be worse than doing nothing. Bush again:

“We’re facing a choice between action and the real prospect of economic hardship for millions of Americans,” he warned.

“Action” – don’t you just love it? Sounds so dynamic and heroic. In fact it is so masterfully-leaderlike, who cares what the action is! More importantly, who cares what nonsense it is.

The choice is not between action and economic hardship. Even with the bail out plan, economic hardship is in store for millions of Americans – just a different set of millions than the one he wants to protect.

The choice is between a knee-jerk reaction and doing anything in the hope it will work, and trying to discover what will actually work.

Anything else is selling snake oil to the American public. Do people still buy that stuff over there?

Protection against psychics

UK psychics are objecting to a change in consumer protection law that would prevent them making misleading claims. (So, that would be ALL their claims, basically.) Until this change, a prosecution could only be brought for deliberate fraud.

On the BBC webpage, the public face of the psychics protesting this are the Spiritualist Churches (which survive on the proceeds of the collection box) and “a spiritual healer, shaman and “space clearing consultant” who clearly believes that she provides a genuine service for her fees.

Oddly, I’m in two minds about this. It’s not that I don’t think that profiting from telling nonsense to unhappy people is pretty evil. That is almost too obviously true to bother mentioning.

I just feel a bit uneasy about criminalising yet another aspect of foolish behaviour. Where do you draw the line?

Surely, the more mainstream religions would fall foul of this law. You can hardly prosecute someone for channelling an imaginary dead relative, if you are going to allow other people to claim that their deity will take you into paradise after you are dead.

On the positive side, the law might provide me with good grounds for demanding endless prosecutions of the popular press – or, at least, getting out-of-court settlements from them to stop my newly-litigation-hungry self. Quite apart from the fact that the papers make misleading claims about society every day of the week, those daily horoscopes are definitely not matching up with my reality.

The Office of Fair Trading says enforcement of the new regulations will not target sessions like this or churches, instead being more likely to be used against foreign mass mailshot fraudsters extracting large sums of money. (BBC report)

Note the use of the word “foreign.” You might wonder if that means that our own lovable-cockney-villain mass mailshot fraudsters will be exempt, then. At the risk of being a broken record, I seriously resent the casual fostering of foreigner-hatred that is increasingly passing for public discourse in the UK.

So this is an anti-spam law? I am confused. I thought fraud was already a crime, although observers of the higher reaches of the property and banking industries might not see much evidence that this is true.

I will take it that this new law implies that internet fraud isn’t actually a crime yet. so I am hurriedly drafting some 419 scam emails, as we speak….. Although, maybe I should just engage the apathy-sketchpad blogger to do my email composition He has one of the funniest examples of scammer-scammed correspondence that I’ve ever seen, complete with web forms he created just to drag the scammmer further and further into his trap.

Wonderful Web Weirdness

The internet is the most fantastic source of weirdness the universe has ever seen. I am, generally, at a total loss as to what is spoof and what is real, which could explain some of the posts on this blog…

Picture of floating home - Copyright 2005, Underwater Vehicles Inc. All rights reserved. http://www.sub-find.com/trilobis65.htmToday, I was innocently surfing the net when I discovered a “Floating Home” (see pic or original site). This is brilliant and I really do hope it is real.

Basically for a mere US$4 – 5 million you can get one of these submersible houses. Words can not do justice for how cool something like this would be (strains of Homer Simpson singing “under the sea” are reverberating through my head now), especially given modern house prices.

Looking around the site (albeit briefly), it seems this was actually published in Popular Mechanics in 2002. This makes me wonder why there aren’t a good few of this wonders floating around. Even in the poor UK, there are a lot of people who can afford to spend GBP2.5 million on a house – especially a six bedroom one like this claims – and getting a house you can move, dont have to mow the lawn and get to see underwater from strikes me as a major selling point.

Add in the way this looks like an ideal means for an island with limited land and an increasing population and I think Gordon Brown should get involved as part of his major social housing scheme.

Obviously there are a few downsides, I suppose. The commute to would could be a pain in the ass (but we should all be telecommuting or working in VR anyway – even China has got in on the act here but more of that another time) and I can imagine docking fees every time you want to go to the shop could be tiresome. Would this be outweighed by the advantage of being able to move your house to a warmer clime whenever the mood hit you? Probably.

The only insurmountable hurdle I can see would be piracy. Can the Flying Spaghetti Monster help here? 🙂

Still, I am willing to take the risk. If people can help me raise enough funds, I will buy a floating semi-submersible house and report back what it is like. Currently the fund stands at US$0.00. All donations welcome…

[tags]Housing, Gordon Brown, Pirates, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Virtual Reality, Society, China, Scam, Spoof, Floating House, Technology, Adventure[/tags]

Healthy Eating

This is not normally a topic I would stray into, but as Heather is hors de combat for a while, I thought I would give it a shot. It certainly strikes me as “bad science” but I may be wrong…

Given the way the UK has got on board this “healthy eating” campaign, it is not surprising that the supermarkets have pulled out all the plugs to use this woo to sell more products. On a fairly regular basis there are adverts on TV how this product or that product is “one of your five a day” with minimal reason behind the claims. It seems Sainsbury’s (supermarket chain) has joined in and in their infinite wisdom have decided that telling their customers how many grams of fat, carbohydrates/sugar, protein etc., are in their food is not effective. As part of the great dumbing down of the UK they now use a “traffic light” system. It is pretty embarrassing.

Sainsburys Cheese Ploughmans PackagingWhat intrigues me the most, is the apparently arbitrary nature of what gets a “green” compared to what gets an “amber” or “red” (I am assuming Green = Good and Red = Bad by the way, can food be “Bad?”). As a recent example, I bought a Sainsbury’s Cheese Ploughmans ready made sandwich which comes on malted bread with “seeds.” The packaging calls it “reduced fat, a healthier option.” In the picture, you can see what the traffic light system looks like, but please note, the fat and salt are supposed to be “amber” rather than red. Continue reading